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Mexico City: chow, destinations, events

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sidnek Nov 25, 2007 04:59 PM

My girlfriend and I will be heading to Mexico City for two weeks from Dec. 21 - Jan 5. We are staying in an apartment in the Chapultepec - Lomas district of the city. I have been searching on chowhound for several hours (lazy Sunday afternoon + sick = chow research) and have seen mainly posts about fine-dining establishments. I am convinced that Aguila y Sol is the way to go for a fine dining experience. However, I did not see a lot about other places. I have several questions and would appreciate any advice that you have:

1. I am most interested in advice about inexpensive to moderately priced, non-touristy destinations. Anything from street food at markets to your local tucked-away gem of a restaurant. Any thoughts?

2. Any suggestions about destinations with a side of chow? I'm thinking here of fun activities to do for first time visitors to the DF such as the floating gardens of Xochimilco, cool neighborhoods to walk around, good day trips, etc. We consider ourselves adventurous and would love off-the-beaten path ideas. We have Jim Johnson's Opinionated Guide to Mexico City which has many wonderful ideas but would love to hear others.

3. We would like to take a short cooking class (1-2 days) in English. I've heard good things about the Mexican Home Cooking School in Tlaxcala but it is a full week class. Anyone tried it? Any other ideas?

4. Any great events that happen in or around Mexico City for the holidays? I've read about the Christmas celebration in Oaxaca but haven't seen much about the DF and Xmas. Any great events, shows, activities, festivals, etc?

Thanks for any ideas that you have. We are really excited about our trip and are both first time visitors to Mexico. If you have any other ideas for great chow or activities that don't fit the questions I've asked, please share. Thank you!

  1. s
    sidnek Nov 26, 2007 02:10 PM

    Just as clarification, the apartment we are staying in is in the Delegacion Cuauhtemoc, not the Chapultepec - Lomas district as stated earlier. Thanks!

    1. cristina Nov 26, 2007 06:36 PM

      Get a copy of this new book--you'll be thrilled: http://www.amazon.com/Good-Food-Mexico-City-Stalls/dp/059544346X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195743035&sr=1-1

      Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

      1 Reply
      1. re: cristina
        Ruth in Condechi Nov 27, 2007 06:31 AM

        Well you have the two best guides for the city of Mexico in your hands. if you were to follow Jim's walking tours you would spend between 2 to 4 days just discovering. Nick Gilman's guide would have you eating your way the rest of your stay. I'm sure he might have mentioned Chef Enrique Olveras Pujol restaurant, he and Martha Chapa are for me the best of Alta Cocina Mexicana. Martha for her over the top artistic view plus the poetry of her menu and Enrique for his sophisticated, minimilist interpretation of traditional mexican. If you go to Pujol order the Tasting Menu ( about $40 USD) don't do the wine menu.
        Delegacion Cuauhtemoc is hugh, it includes the Zona Rosa, Condesa and Roma just to mention the biggest names. Find out what colonia you will be staying in. I would not waste my time in the Zona Rosa, its heyday is long gone and its reputation as an artistic center has been taken by the Colonia Roma.
        Their various sites (in spanish) that give great advice. Some below:
        http://www.inah.gob.mx/tci/
        http://www.mexicocity.gob.mx/ ( TEL> # 01-800-008-9090 for info
        )http://www.mexicocity.gob.mx/descubre/corredores.php ( by zone
        )www.mexicosoulandessence.com ( in english

        )

        The time frame you choose will be exceptionally quite since most capitalinos go to the beach for these holidays, so there should be no lines for anything. But also most festivities will be held in homes. Do you have any contacts here?

        Hope this helps.

      2. c
        cajun_foodie Nov 27, 2007 06:53 AM

        I have to say that I'm so jealous you and your gf are going to Mex City. I love that place. I've gone several times for spring break while in college.

        I definitely have some recommendations on where and what to eat. If you are in Colonia Roma, try some of the street vendors outside of the subway station. My friends and I still talk about how amazing the food was and we haven't found anything as good in the U.S. since. When we were there, you could get 5 tacos for about $1.50, and the vendors cook the meat all day with roasting green onions and pork fat, and I'm just salivating thinking about it.

        For a little bit more upscale, I would go to Contramar. It's also in Colonia Roma. It's like a classier version of a traditional Mexican cantina with delicious seafood and this amazing fig custard tart as well as a nice bar. I do remember that they had odd hours, so I'd check on that.

        I guess that's about all I can offer. Have fun exploring the city.

        1. Eat_Nopal Nov 27, 2007 08:12 AM

          Sidnek... some interesting side chow ideas:

          > Tours of chinampas / floating farms around Xochimilco... not just the typical trajineras. But check out the Michmani Ecotourism Reserve, Centro Acuexcomatl and at least one of the four flower markets (Cuemanco, Madre Selva, San Luis Tlaxialtemalco, Palacio de la Flor)... since you are down that way... you might try going to the Plaza Mexico bull fighting ring just to eat from the stalls outside. Also.. I don't remember the name... maybe someone can help... but there is a restaurant nearby that procures the killed bulls and has specialties like rocky mountain oysters etc.,

          > December is all about the Posadas... processions around residential neighborhoods singing hymns while a couple of teenagers dressed up as Mary & Joseph go around asking for hospitality. I would contact any one of the American or Brittish Ex-Pat communities to get in on a good one. Along these lines... try to get yourself invited to a Christmas Eve dinner. At the very least... and I am saying this as a non-Catholic... go to one of the midnight masses for an unforgettable experience of Aztec dancing, incense & raucous.

          > If you can extend your stay by a couple of days... Jan 6th celebrates the Arrival of Wise Men (Reyes Magos)... and is the actual gift giving holiday... I guarantee that if you find some orphanage or other charity to participate in... you will have an unforgettable experience.

          > I think the Xocalo & the Guadalupe Basilica are both quite pretty during the holidays decked out in the traditional Flor de Noche Buena (literally Christmas Eve Flower aka Poinsettias)... along those lines make sure to drink some seasonal Noche Buena beer for me.

          > As for food... the typical suggestions like Mercado La Merced is a must, any one of the El Bajio etc.,

          2 Replies
          1. re: Eat_Nopal
            s
            sidnek Dec 4, 2007 12:58 PM

            Thanks for the great suggestions! The Michmani Ecotourism Reserve and the Plaza Mexico bull fighting both look like great destinations.

            I'm interested in your suggestion to contact one of the American or British ex-pat communities... any ideas about forums for finding one?

            1. re: sidnek
              Eat_Nopal Dec 4, 2007 02:20 PM

              Here are some places to start:

              http://ippr.typepad.com/brits_abroad/... (look for the post by Graeme Stevens

              )

              There are a also few Mexico Based Brits that post on this forum from time to time... mainly asking about proper English Tea Time etc.,... they should be able to help.

          2. nychilanga Dec 3, 2007 08:58 PM

            the holidays is a fantastic time to be in the city because it fills with micro markets. I feel like it really started this weekend in a major way. I was out sunday and I swear I was the only person with out christmas decorations or enormous shopping bags! there are way more christmas tree market than in years past, but I am more fascinated by the mom & pops selling homemade ornaments, breads, toys or ponche on the street (AY the city nights smell like ponche- a hot fruity drink that feature perfumy guavas- this month!)
            Nochebuenas (poinsettias & the only this time of year CERVEZA) are everywhere as are lots of parties!

            are you staying in colonia cuauhtemoc? if so there is a general market 5 times a week on sullivan street, and a gem of a little st. market in tabacalera saturdays...lots of good fonda eats in san rafael, a great enclosed market in santa maria la ribera...i would skip many of the high end places if want more of the city & seasonal flavor...all the old school turkey & roast pork places busted out the bacalo recently. check out casa del pavo & las ramblas on motolina en el centro. go to col. portales one day for the flea market & dona tila's AMAZING oaxacan.

            also recommend:
            eating at the market in plaza garabaldi ( you have to be at least a little bit borracho)
            Cantina La polar
            visit mercado jamaica- the big flower market
            hang out at the brand new GIANT ice skating rink in the zocalo!!
            look up the calendar for centro cultural de espana
            la canta de sirenas seafood instead of contramar
            cafe gran premio for black & whites

            ...sorry I'm rambling, but I think the upscale places get way too much attention on this board! who has $500- 1000 pesos to spend on a lunch these days?

            1 Reply
            1. re: nychilanga
              s
              sidnek Dec 4, 2007 01:10 PM

              I love checking out markets and appreciate the suggestions; thanks! The flea market and dona tila's oaxacan sound like a must!

              any musts on your day or short trips outside the city? we are planning on going to the park near the base of the Popocatepetl volcano and to the ruins at Teotihuacán. we are also thinking of going to tlaxcala. I would love to hear other ideas too.

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